How to reach consumers taking wellness into their own hands

Felicity's Amy Laski explains how brands can have a role in a new wave of DIY betterment.

By Amy Laski

Aside from some outrageous pandemic hair, a glance in mirrors across Canada will also show a lot of people who have taken a DIY approach to their overall wellbeing.

Without the usual access to gyms and healthcare providers, there’s an increased emphasis on taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and even spiritually. A comparison of search trends from 2019 to 2020 by Google shows and increase in wellbeing-related search terms. In fact, according to the Google 2020 Year in Search report, almost every one of the top 10 “how to” searches is related to wellbeing, from financial to functional to food. Over on Pinterest of all places, searches for “therapy” and “therapist” rose at the end of December. And the virtual corkboard social media site reports huge increases in sleep-related searches.

In order to take our health into our own hands, we need information at our fingertips. There’s no shortage on that front. But how we feel in the face of this information is critical. Even before the pandemic, research we did at Felicity in partnership with Ipsos revealed that 92% of Canadians felt skeptical, overwhelmed, confused, discouraged, anxious, or embarrassed/ashamed by health and wellness communications. Since last March, it’s safe to say that number is even higher.

So what can we do, as wellbeing marketers, to help consumers navigate the overwhelming amount of data out there?

Get serious about influence

As marketers, we are often aiming to influence at a broader level. There are far too many examples of how this aim goes wrong. In a recent event, Canada Research Chair in Health and Law Dr. Timothy Caulfield shared the startling statistic that 85% of the results for the online search term “immune boosting” were not backed by solid science. So, take the desire for influence and guidance seriously and use it as a force for good. Make sure that you have third party experts talking about the science backing your products, processes and marketing materials from the get-go.

Keep it simple

Showing your audiences that you are serious about the role your brand plays in their lives also means showing you understand their communities and the environment around them. Rather than jump on the latest buzzword bandwagon, engage your end audience with messages that make science meaningful and communicated with context. Use what Caulfield calls “science-informed basics”:  tried-and-true, scientifically-solid keys to wellbeing, like getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet.

Ditch decision fatigue

Even small decisions are loaded – get together with a friend or not? – and our ability to make decisions erodes as we become more fatigued. Try to minimize the number of decisions your audience needs to make when interacting with your brand. And, on a related note:

Keep it doable

Encourage sustainable wellness by driving home the realistic, simple ways your brand can enhance your audiences’ daily lives. And instead of encouraging seismic shifts in behaviour – goodness knows we’ve had to do enough of that in the past year – look for opportunities to fit into Canadians’ lives in small but meaningful ways. Think “exercise snacking” – doing bite-sized workouts throughout the day. Make your brand the purveyor of doability, when all else feels overwhelming.

Acknowledge uncertainty

Whomever said “the only constant is change” would be blown away by just how often we’ve been subject to changing messages in the past year. Case-in-point: the mask-wearing fiasco, where we were told at first that they were not effective, only to be told later that they are highly effective at stopping the spread of COVID-19. Especially with science, our understanding evolves constantly. While it’s evolving, the onus is on the communicator to say so, or risk undermining trust.

Information is power

The increased pressure to care for ourselves has also led us to seek more information about our wellbeing from sources other than Google. Worldwide sales of wearable devices have grown 30% year over year. How can your brand incorporate information that’s at consumers’ fingertips (or rather, on their wrists or in their hands) to tailor your offering to them or to better enable them to use your product or service for their personal improvement? Think sleep quality, breathing rates, heart rates, activity levels and beyond.

Amy Laski is founder and president of Felicity, a communications and content agency focused on the wellbeing space.